Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) heads to the land of the rising sun having left his competition – on paper – firmly in his shadows this year, with Round 16 and the Motul Grand Prix of Japan serving up the Spaniard’s first chance to clinch a seventh World Championship.
77 points is the gap separating Marquez from nearest challenger Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), with 99 points the margin to the only other rider who has a mathematical chance of claiming the 2018 crown – third in the Championship Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). The goal then? Don’t concede more than two points to Dovizioso and more than 24 to Rossi.
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The form of the Honda rider has been almost impeccable this season. Seven wins to his name and only twice being off the podium has been the tremendous consistency that has, ultimately, seen him pull away from the rest, with Mugello being the last time Marquez failed to stand on the rostrum. So, is it a foregone conclusion that a fifth premier class crown is already his? Well, this is MotoGP™ and anything can happen in motorcycle racing, but it certainly seems the rider from Cervera has a hand and four fingers on the trophy.
However, the Twin Ring Motegi poses a stumbling block that no other circuit does for Marquez: it’s the only track on the calendar he’s failed to secure pole position at. A stat the 25-year-old will be aiming to put right this year, but there’s a certain Desmosedici on song – Dovizioso.
The two starred in an unforgettable duel this time last year, with the Italian emerging victorious. Marquez, of course, is aware of the threat the Ducatis pose on a track that is suited to the GP18, but you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be in with a shout of the victory come Sunday afternoon.
Dovi and Marquez share thoughts on the incredible last lap
“We have our first match ball at Honda’s home race, which is very important for our Factory,” explains Marquez. “Of course, we’ll try to get the best result in front of Honda’s people and home fans, but Motegi is a stop-and-go track where strong acceleration is a key factor, so we’ll have to work hard and improve a little bit in that area if we want to fight with Ducati.
“Otherwise, we’ll try to remain focused and calm and handle the situation as well as possible. The important thing is to ultimately achieve our goal at some point.”
Is there another twist in the tale or will it be magnificent seven for Marquez? We don’t have to wait long to find out…
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